MI5 missed a chance to stop an attack on a Grande concert, an inquest has heard

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s domestic intelligence service failed to act quickly enough on key information and missed a significant opportunity…

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s domestic intelligence agency did not act quickly enough on a key tip and missed a significant opportunity to prevent a suicide bombing that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in northwest England in 2017, an inquest found Thursday.

Retired judge John Saunders, who led the inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack, said one MI5 officer admitted they considered the information about suicide bomber Salman Abedi a possible national security issue but did not discuss it with colleagues quickly enough.

“I found a significant missed opportunity to take action that could have prevented the attack,” he said.

In a rare televised statement, MI5 director-general Ken McCallum said he was “deeply sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack”.

“Gathering classified intelligence is difficult, but if we had been able to take advantage of the small chance we had, those affected might not have suffered such horrific loss and injury,” McCallum said.

Abedi, 22, detonated a knapsack bomb in the arena lobby at the end of a concert on May 22, 2017, as thousands of young fans, including many children, were leaving the pop star’s show. More than 100 people were injured. Abedi died in the explosion.

His brother Hashem Abedi was convicted in 2020 of helping to plan and carry out the attack. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Saunders said that if MI5 had acted on the intelligence it received, it could have led to action — including potentially stopping Abedi at Manchester Airport on his return from Libya just four days before the attack.

Caroline Curry, whose 19-year-old son Liam Curry was among those killed in the blast, said Thursday she could not forgive intelligence officials for their failures.

“From top to bottom, MI5 to the attacker’s accomplices, we will always believe that you were all involved in the murder of our children,” she told reporters.

Numerous MI5 witnesses gave evidence behind closed doors at the inquiry and the intelligence was not disclosed.

Abedi was a “subject of interest” to MI5 officials in 2014, but his case was closed soon after because he was deemed low risk.

Saunders also said authorities failed to refer Abedi to the government’s counterterrorism program, known as Prevent.

“I have come to the conclusion that there was at least a period during Salman Abedi’s journey to violent extremism where he should have been channeled,” he said.

Thursday’s report was the third and latest in the onslaught.

Saunders previously criticized arena security and local police for failing to identify Abedi as a threat. He also criticized delays and failures in the emergency response on the night of the blast.

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